Andrew Benintendi

Red Sox Minor League Notebook: Andrew Benintendi adjusting to pro ball; Jose Iglesias' advice for Yoan Moncada

Ryan Hannable
July 16, 2015 - 4:52 pm

For Andrew Benintendi, the No. 7 overall pick by the Red Sox in this year's MLB draft, his biggest adjustment to pro ball is the one thing that made him the No. 7 overall pick. His bat. After batting .380 with 19 home runs and having an on-base percentage of .489, while slugging .715 with an aluminum bat as a sophomore in college this spring, the left-handed hitter has been forced into using a wood bat now that he's turned professional, which he said has been the hardest thing to get used to. "The difference that I've noticed is the metal bat that I used had a lot more flex when I swung, so now using a wood bat, it's not flexing as much," Benintendi said last weekend in Lowell. "It's thrown me off a little bit so I am just trying to get used to it." The Golden Spikes Award winner, given to the best college player, is 5-for-27 (.185) since turning pro in eight games going into Thursday with short-season, Single-A Lowell. He's hitless in his last five games, but isn't getting down on himself. "Just keep swinging it," he said. "Extra batting practice. I am doing everything I can to get used to it." Things have changed dramatically for Benintendi over the last year or so. During his freshman season at Arkansas the center fielder hit only .276/.368/.333 with one homer and wasn't even on many scouts' radar. He put on 15 pounds of muscle between his freshman and sophomore seasons, as well as getting fully healed from from a procedure on his right palm and a nagging hamstring injury, leading to the Golden Spikes award and being the center of attention for many scouts this past spring. He admitted there's a lot more focus on him now that he was selected No. 7 overall, but he isn't letting it bother him. "When you start thinking about that is when you start to struggle," Benintendi said. "I don't think about that at all." "Obviously now there is a lot of attention on me -- I have to deal with things like media and things like that a lot more," he added. "Other than the attention, it's about the same." His Razorbacks team reached the College World Series this past year and that experience of playing big games in front of large crowds will certainly help his transition to professional baseball. "Not just the College World Series, but Arkansas in general, the atmosphere every weekend is crazy," he said. "Ten-thousand fans every game, so I think that isn't going to hurt moving forward." Being drafted so high and being a college player, he could have a faster track moving up the organization than a player out of high school would. The 21-year-old isn't thinking about that, as he feels he's on the same level as everyone else. "I don't think so," Benintendi said. "Once you get here, everyone is the same. Whoever is playing the best moves up. I don't expect anything. I plan on earning everything that happens. I don't plan on being given anything, which motivates me." While he's not thinking about it now, spending a day at Fenway Park during his signing process gave him a small taste of what life could be like one day in the majors and his season with Lowell is the beginning of that journey. "For sure," he said. "It's every guys dream to make it to the big leagues and is definitely going to motivate me." IGLESIAS' MESSAGE TO MONCADA If there's someone who can relate to Red Sox prospect Yoan Moncada, it's Jose Iglesias. The current Tigers All-Star shortstop made his professional debut at the age of 20 with the Lowell Spinners after coming over from Cuba. Moncada, who came over from the Domincan Republic and signed with the Red Sox this March, made his professional debut with Low-A Greenville earlier this year, also at age 20. Sharing almost the exact same path to this point, Iglesias offered some advice to the fellow middle-infielder, while speaking Monday at the All-Star Game festivities in Cincinnati. "Pick an American roommate, try to learn English as quick as possible, and work hard every day," Iglesias said. "I heard he has amazing talent. He's just got to put in the effort and he'll be in the big leagues soon." Iglesias made his major league debut at age 21 in 2011 and while there's no exact timetable for Moncada, it's likely the Red Sox will take a slower approach. General manager Ben Cherington was on record during the spring saying the organization won't rush Moncada, possibly taking a more cautious approach because of what happened with Iglesias and him coming up maybe before he was fully ready. Regardless of when he reaches the big leagues, Iglesias pointed to the importance of learning the English language for Moncada. "When you can communicate with your teammates, with your coaching staff, every time you go to a hotel somewhere and you're able to say something in English," Iglesias said, "That definitely helps with your comfort level." Moncada seems to be feeling much more comfortable in Greenville of late. In his last 18 contests (since June 25), the switch-hitter has 10 multi-hit games and is hitting .361 with 10 extra-base hits, 10 RBIs, and 21 runs scored. Prior to Thursday, seven of his last 10 games have been multi-hit efforts. Hitting .272 overall for the season, after just .229 in May and June combined, it seems like his time in the states is starting to pay off. The Red Sox certainly hope one day that adjustment can lead to being like Iglesias, who made his first All-Star team this week. SHORTSTOPS ON THE MOVE Following his MVP performance in the Double-A All-Star Game Wednesday night, Sea Dogs shortstop Marco Hernandez was promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket. Hernandez, who the Cubs sent to the Red Sox as the player to be named later in the Felix Doubront trade, was in the midst of a 13-game hit streak. Over his last 10 games he was hitting .410 and .326 overall on the season. "€œGreat addition,'€€ Red Sox minor league hitting coordinator Tim Hyers said recently on the Farm Report Podcast. "[The] first time I met him was spring training, and he came in with a great attitude. Very confident. Another guy who loves to play, incredible work ethic. Good teammate. [His success] is not a surprise, I saw a really quick bat, a guy who didn'€™€™t swing at a lot of bad pitches in spring training. [He] had a plan going into the season really trying to work gap-to-gap [and] keep the ball up the middle, and I think that focus and that plan really helped him adapting to Double-A. "Recently he'€™€™s really picked it up and been really consistent. You look at his splits, being a left-handed hitter versus left handed pitching, it doesn'€™€™t fall off. He hits lefties, righties, and the last month has been really consistent for us." Ahead of him at the position now is Xander Bogaerts and Deven Marrero, so it would seem he's essentially blocked. With the trade deadline approaching, the Red Sox could be trying to showcase his talent at the Triple-A level to potentially raise his value and try and deal him at the deadline for a player at a position the big league club needs help at, such as a pitcher. Taking Hernandez's place in Portland, is Tzu-Wei Lin. Lin, a native of Taiwan, was hitting .281 in High-A Salem. This will be a good opportunity for the 21-year-old to show just how good he can be, now that he will be challenged more in Double-A. For more Red Sox minor league coverage, listen to the Red Sox Farm Report podcast with Ken Laird and Ryan Hannable.